Lakewood Company Sues Union Members, Eyes Move to Elyria
Last week, a federal court judge issued a temporary restraining order that would keep Ferry Cap employees from refusing to work overtime — despite the union agreement.
Despite a 2011 union agreement between the Ferry Cap and Set Screw Company and its union employees, a federal judge has prohibited the workers from “refusing to work overtime” hours at the Lakewood facility.
Both city officials and employees are also concerned about the plant consolidating operations with the Nelson Stud facility in Elyria.
That’s a move that would take an estimated 120 jobs out of Lakewood.
But it’s more complicated than that.
According to the Plain Dealer, the Ferry Cap company filed a lawsuit against the employees in US District Court in Cleveland on Feb. 5. The named defendants are the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, the AFL-CIO, District Lodge 54 and several union members.
Judge James Gwin issued a temporary restraining order last week — in effect through Feb. 22 — that would keep the employees from refusing to work overtime.
The 100-year-old company, which manufactures specialized fasteners, once employed nearly 400 people. The company’s high-end fasteners can be found in Caterpillars as well as bridges and other applications.
Ferry Cap is one of the largest employers in the city.
In an effort to consolidate, the Plain Dealer reported that the company is looking to move its heading equipment from the Birdtown neighborhood to its sister company Nelson Stud Welding facility in Elyria.
Both are owned by parent company, Doncasters.
In the complaint, Ferry Cap argued that the employees’ refusal to work overtime could place the company’s ability to fill customer orders in jeopardy.
The judge agreed.
Company officials did not return calls seeking comment on this story.
However, a long-time employee of the company told Lakewood Patch that the company could abandon Lakewood by July.
The company’s goal, he said, is to move one of the company’s six headers each month.
“They are not moving the equipment, they are taking our lives,” said the employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We’re talking about our lives — our families. Ferry Cap is what it is. Our customers are happy. We are the ones who make the parts. We make the best parts on the market, because that’s what we do.”
The employees contend they were lied to and are being forced to work overtime against their wishes — as well as against Article III of the union contract with the company stating that employees must “agree” to work overtime.
A court-ordered meeting between both sides is slated for next week.
So far, two salaried employees — one engineer and another department head — have transferred to the facility in Elyria.
Many of the other employees worry they’ll be next.
“We grew up there together,” said the employee, who’s worked for Ferry Cap for more than 25 years. “Most of us started there in our 20s. Our families grew up together. We are family. We are not just workers.
“We have a decent contract that had decent health and retirement benefits, but every company that took over asked for more and cut jobs.”
He added that the employees made more money in the late 90s and early-2000’s than they make now.
That’s because employees agreed to cut their piecework — an employee incentive based on production — in exchange for keeping the company in Lakewood.
“We are complaining because they lied to us,” said the employee. “We gave part of our income not to move the machines and we were promised. And five years later, here we are. The machines are being moved.”
The union has filed a grievance over the potential move. It’s schedule for arbitration next month.
Mayor Michael Summers told Lakewood Patch that if the company left, it could be a “big blow” to the city.